To Film School and Beyond

So, firstly apologies – I have been a shitty blogger over the last couple of months, but honestly life got in the way . I started a course at film school, and got accepted to Oxford, I made four short films in two months, wrote a play and stressed myself out beyond the point of exhaustion.

BUT here I am.

In better news, I’ve been working my rocks off. Film school is….hard. But fun. I applied at first because I really wanted to learn what happens when the scripts leave my hands and go into production. As a writer my job is done the moment the script is picked up, and as an actress my job was always in front of the camera, so I really wanted to understand what went on behind it.

Turns out the answer is A LOT.

It’s been mind blowing to be honest. And I’m glad I went to film school and not taking ‘film studies’ course where we all sit around and disect . The practical experience is amazing, the flexibility wonderful and the encouragement to get out there and do stuff has led to me breaking out of my comfort zone on more than one occasion.

Since the last time I posted I went on a one night residential with my class where we shot two short films in 24 hours. The speed and energy with which we have to work is inspiring. I’m surrounded by people who are as excited as I am and not one of them want to talk about film theory or ‘what the director meant’

Instead we gang up over lunch and talk about how we can talk our way into filming in restricted locations and how many people it will take to carry a jib and two cameras into a forest.

Today I shot a lot of food and cooking footage. I needed to get a post footage voice over and had no one to help, so my nine year old stepped up and was my sound engineer for the afternoon (and she’s pretty good at it).

I ignored this side of film for so long, and then, when I initially  expressed an interest fifteen years ago I was shot down and made to feel inferior and uneducated because I didn’t ‘understand’ why the director chose to shoot the sky in pink or what the ‘meaning’ was behind…well, pretty much every film ever – I’m ashamed to admit it but there was a period where I spent a lot of time believing that I was the idiot – because that is how that particular group chose to view me. I was the ‘pleb’ (i took science at uni initially) who just ‘DIDN’T UNDERSTAND’ the supposedly apparent ‘genius’ of what ever art house director  was currently in vogue.

As a writer, an actress and director I can tell your opinions mean shit.

C

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Words in the heart cannot be taken

I had a conversation with a friend this week that has sort of stayed with me – haunted me if you will. We’ve all had those moments, when someone says something that just…sticks with you and becomes all you can think about.

We were talking about books.Specifically we were talking about the books that have left an impact on us,. The books we just can’t let go of. The ones that stay with us, guide us. Sometimes without us even realising it.

Eleven years ago, when I stood up in front of my entire college and all their family and friends and delivered the graduation speech, I wonder how many of them knew that I was quoting from Michael Crichton or Terry Pratchett? Probably not many. But that doesn’t make those words any less valid. Or any less important.

There are books that I come back to, over and over and over again. Books that speak to my soul.

There are words that dance in my blood. Words written by strangers that speak to the very heart of me. Words that have become part of who I am.

And that is an amazing thing.

I was overwhelmed by the knowledge that there were people out there in the world who have no idea how they shaped me as a person, how they saved my life, how they changed how I thought and how they made me a better person.

And maybe, just maybe, there is someone out there who has had their life changed by something I have written. There might not be, but there might be.

I’ve been re-reading Discworld from the start. I have the last book but I haven’t read it yet. It’s been sitting on my dresser for a long time. And honestly, I just don’t think I’m ready yet. Because if I read it then I have to admit that it’s over. And I’m just not ready for that yet. It had been a part of my life for over twenty five years – longer even – the Colour of Magic was published the year after I was born. So pretty much all my life there has been this other, wonderful, strange, funny, heartbreaking world that has existed in parallel. I’m not ready to let go of a series, of a writer who changed me in so many ways. A writer I never met who made me a better person, who made me think and feel and love and fight. A writer who taught me that I didn’t need to conform, that I didn’t need to care what other people thought, that I didn’t need to be someone I wasn’t. That personal wasn’t the same as important, that infinity is duck egg blue, that I should be wary of any item that weighs less than it’s operational manual, that I should always look under my bed in case there’s a man there (you never know your luck) and most importantly :

Words in the heart cannot be taken.

Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay, spoken by Dorfl

And so, go forth, find your own words, those words that will imprint on your heart and soul never to be erased.

they cannot be taken.

Love, always,

C

 

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Balls Deep

seven-sins-of-shakespeare-posterThere are many differences between film and stage. I love both formats. I love the creativity I can express through film, but I love the intimacy that comes with the stage. What I tend to overlook time and time and time again is the one thing that makes me deeply unhappy – rehearsals.

Currently I am in the final stages of rehearsals for Henry IV part 2 as part of the 400 anniversary of Shakespeare season with Bigger Than Us Productions. It’s been an amazing summer, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented people Northern Ireland has to offer – and yes, I am a little bit smug about the fact that I got everyone one of the actors I wanted – all my first choices.

I have a wonderful mix of people – from teenagers on their first performance through to seasoned pros. There is a wonderfully rich mix of people involved – a seventeen year old taking on the very meaty role of Pistol with an energy that frankly sinister, a radio DJ playing Poins with with the best facial expressions I have ever seen, a young Bardolph providing MILES of homoerotic moments, a stand up comedian playing Francis with a cheek and presence that far surpasses her years, a stately Hal played by the most regal young gent I have ever come across (even if he is a bad influence) and my Holy Trinity – my Doll, my Mistress Quickly and my beloved Falstaff – the sharp Mistress, the young Doll and the wonderful Falstaff who holds them all in the palm of his hand.

Last night we had a wonderful blocking session and it’s easy to see how it’s all come together now. I certainly feel a lot less stressed and worried than I did a few weeks ago, and once again I was reassured watching my wonderful, wonderful cast work together in harmony. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a group of people who acted and reacted so INSTINCTIVELY with each other, who used the space, who weren’t afraid to get physical, who gave it their all.

This is a far cry from the adaptations of the past – it’s Henry IV set in ‘organised’ Belfast. It’s sinister, it’s threatening, but it’s also fucking hilarious – because if anyone knows how to make fun of themselves, the Northern Irish do. It’s threats and violence and lust and greed and gluttony and sex and a dick joke every other line and everyone works in ‘construction’.

So, with two weeks to go I’m both terrified and excited.

My parents are coming to see it too – my mum came to see a performance of a play I wrote earlier this summer and it seemed to be a bit of an eye opener for her – I think she finally realises that when I’m sat behind my laptop for hours on end I’m not playing Candy Crush.

So this is it, the final countdown.

It will be awesome.

Love, etc,

C

 

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Shakespeare and Opportunities

Okay, so i know I haven’t updated a lot lately, but honestly, things have been INSANE.

As many of you know personal issues caused me to step out of the industry for a long time. Simply put, Northern Ireland is a small place, and the arts in Northern Ireland is even smaller, so you run into the same people over and over. And there were people I just couldn’t be in the same room as. And it made me profoundly unhappy until one day I just cracked, threw my hands in the air and cried ‘Fuck it!’

I haven’t looked back.

Since I decided to return to the arts I have been very fortunate and surprised and inundated with thing to do. I had a play I wrote produced and performed, I’m currently directing Henry IV as part of the 400 anniversary of Shakespeare as part of Bigger Than Us ‘Seven Sins of Shakespeare’ and I have both a low budget feature and a play I wrote in the early stages of production.

On top of that I am also now on the editorial board for the Community Arts Partnership  and have enrolled on several courses, including creative writing at Oxford and film school.

It’s been….busy.

Right now there is so much going on, so many opportunities and I am grabbing them with both hands.

No one and nothing is ever going to tell me I’m not good enough, or that I don’t work hard enough, or that I don’t deserve it ever again. I listened to that for years to the point where I believed it myself, and while I know now that it was that person’s own failures and insecurities and inadequacy that was fuelling their words and behaviour, it was my fault that I listened to them. That I LET them influence me, hold me back. But no more.

So if I can tell you guys anything, I’ll tell you this – you can do anything you want. Be anything you want. And fuck what anyone else says.

Love, encouragement, hugs and nudges in the right direction,

C

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FANDOM!!!!!!!!!!!!

cuffs2cuffs1

Okay, so I’m a bit (understatement) excited! On Ao3 I got a comment from another user who had commissioned some fan art for my work!

YEAH!! HOW FUCKING AWESOME IS THAT?

This morning I woke up and in my inbox was lovely, lovely email from the poster in question, the sweet Lydia, and aside from her wonderful email, she also included not one, but TWO pics done by the amazing tiniestjohn.

I’m actually beyond overwhelmed right now.

But I just wanted to say thank you, thank you so, so much, and Lydia, readers like you are the reason we do this.

AO3 is a wonderful place where we can express ourselves, celebrate ourselves and our fandoms and never, ever be judged for it. It’s be a sanctuary when I needed it, and a source of inspiration and has led me to reading work from some try wonderful and amazing writers, and meeting people I adore. AO3 truly is my spiritual home, and I think any one of the folks there would say the same.

So thank you, thank you to everyone who reads my fic or my original work, thank you to everyone I follow who’s updates are much anticipated, and thank you to everyone who has ever uttered a word of support or encouragement. It means everything. Honestly.

I love you all.

C

 

 

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How it feels to watch your play performed

13882460_10155138093150190_9027038769801469382_nYesterday, Friday 29 July ’16, I, along with some dear friends and my mum, went along to The Black Box to see my one act play ‘To Ten’ performed by the wonderful folks at LunchBox Theatre here in Belfast.

LunchBox aims to develop the work of emerging playwrights from the North of Ireland, and provide directing and performing opportunities to local artists.

I’ve been asked a lot over the last day about what it’s like to watch your work and not be involved in the production.

Well, in a way it’s great. I get to do my job and then hand it over to someone else to do theirs. As a writer my job is to write. As a director or an actor it’s their job to bring those words to life. So there is a sort of detachment that you need to have in order to be a professional writer. You can’t be precious about your words. You need to to understand that edits have to happen, sometimes changes have to be made, sometimes the tone is different, sometimes the characters aren’t how you imagined. AND THAT’S ALL FINE.

Seriously. As a writer I write. That’s my job. It’s not my job to police how other people interpret those characters or that situation. I can’t stand behind everyone reading my work and correct their interpretation of it.

And that’s one of the most exciting things about script writing. I get to see it for the first time, just like everyone else in the audience. And that is a wonderful pleasure.

But it’s also terrifying.

I was worried that it would be a disaster. That the actors would be awful. That the director had screwed it up. That no one would laugh.

So I sat, terrified, anxious and sweating like an ice cube in hell while I watched and waited.

And I had nothing to worry about.

There is nothing like that wonderful moment of the first audience laugh. That moment when the words and the direction and the acting all come together in one wonderful instant.

And they laughed. And laughed. Fuck, I laughed, and I knew what all the jokes were. But the delivery of them was all new to me, and it was like a whole new joke.  And that, I think, is what it’s really like to watch your work performed. It’s like you are hearing it all for the first time.

Yesterday it all came together in a way I hadn’t expected. The audience enjoyed it, the actors were utterly amazing and absolutely hilarious with a wonderful sense of timing, physical presence and self awareness that enabled them to make the audience laugh and cringe in equal measure, and the director, who is still a student himself and has no bloody right to be so damn talented at that age, really pulled it all out of the bag and brought the whole thing to life.

Honestly, I was so proud to have those people speaking my words. I couldn’t have asked for better.

And so now, a rest. Until next week at least.

Love, etc,

C

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Rethinking Shakespeare

I’m very pleased to be able to tell you all that I’m directing a vignette as part of Bigger Than Us Productions ‘Seven Sins of Shakespeare’ event at the South Bank Playhouse in September. See here for more details: Bigger Than Us – Seven Sins

As most of you know I’ve been working away in a little bubble recently and haven’t had much of a chance to play with others, so to speak. So this was a great opportunity for me, and I’m really excited about getting to work on this.

It’s been wonderful to speak with the other directors involved and to see so many people getting excited about Shakespeare, looking at it in a fresh and exciting way. I admit I was very overwhelmed and came away from the first meeting thinking my idea was complete shit compared to some of the wonderfully creative takes on some of the plays chosen. I won’t give too much away, but let’s just say I’m glad I won’t be the one mopping up at the end of the night.🙂

Each play focuses on one sin, and the variety of plays is wonderful – with some lesser performed plays getting the spotlight shone on them. An at just 15 minutes each the whole event is a wonderful opportunity to sample Shakespeare for newcomers and old fans alike.

I’m directing Gluttony (which my friends this is hilarious given my other food blog and obsession with cooking) and am focusing on Henry IV and in particular Falstaff and his preoccupation with food and wine and women. Hopefully it will be as amusing on stage as it is in my head.

The show is running from the 22-24 September and is set to be a great experience. Hope to see some of you there, and I’ll keep you all updated as we get nearer the time.

Love, etc,

C

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Queer in a modern Ireland

 

Pride kicked off in Dublin and London this week – Belfast doesn’t have theirs until late July – incidentally the parade is the day after my play debuts, so we’re all hanging around for the whole weekend. But it’s got me thinking about what being queer in Ireland really means.

For those who don’t know Ireland is actually two countries and one country all at once – blame the St Andrew’s agreement – which means that you can be Irish, British and Northern Irish ALL AT ONCE – including dual citizenship and holding two passports.

And while in some ways Northern Ireland is amazing, sometimes it is so fucking backward that it’s embarrassing. And when it comes to gay rights the backwardness is not only stifling, but embarrassing.

In 2015 we held a vote on gay marriage – a basic human right, yeah? – in which NI OVERWHELMINGLY voted FOR gay marriage (70%) but it was shot down because of the stupid power sharing executive we have here – who are more concerned with bitching with each other and trying to score argument points on ‘principle’ than any of them are with actual politics or the welfare of the people they represent. And so the DUP (rather ironically named the DEMOCRATIC Unionist Party) decided that nope, they weren’t having gay marriage because it would be an insult to the sanctity of marriage in the traditional Christian sense.

Let’s bear in mind that at the time of that decision Peter Robinson was First Minister – his wife Iris Robinson openly stated that homosexuality was an abomination and that abortion was against God’s will while she was banging a 19 year old and conducting a sting of dubious property deals. But hey, us queers in a committed monogamous relationship are the ones to be vilified. Hmmmm.

When Peter Robinson left government and was replaced by Arlene Foster I actually had high hopes. I had, in a previous life, worked as a mid level civil servant in Ms Foster’s Department and had generally found her to be a level headed, intelligent and kind person. So you can imagine how betrayed I felt when I realised that the person I had professionally admired was just another muppet who shouldn’t have power.

Much as I generally don’t like Stephen Nolan (don’t know him personally, I’m sure he’d a nice bloke but his broadcasting style is not to my liking) I seriously respected him for the following interview: nolan vs alene re. same sex marriage

‘What is democratic about blocking that vote?’

And there we have it, Stephen Nolan asking the question we all asked.And the anser? Well… be prepared to be angry.

Arlene Foster (when asked why the DUP didn’t accept the majority vote from the people of Northern Ireland regarding gay marriage) : Because we have a mechanism to protect the institution of marriage.

Yeah. I’m gonna let you stew on that for a few seconds.

Now, I will hold my hands up as divorcee and say that yeah, my first marriage didn’t work out. But shit happens and we are all adults. That DOES NOT mean that I don’t take marriage seriously. And here’s the thing – I got a registry office marriage. No church, no religion involved, yet it was still a ‘marriage’ – so where does the religion come into things regarding gay marriage when about half of all NI marriages are registry office, non religious services? Not only that, but what about us queers who are religious? Like me? Might be a surprise, but yeah, I take my faith pretty seriously. And no, I don’t think God has an issue with who I am attracted to (made in his image, shall not judge etc) and neither do the 2 clergymen I know well.

Obviously this is a straw poll based I conducted in casual conversation over 20 minutes, but from experience it’s pretty indicative of the NI population in general – NO ONE CARES WHO YOU ARE FUCKING.

I’ll not even go into how Foster tries to justify her bigoted opinion by saying that basically it’s all fine because we have civil partnerships – while completely ignoring the fact that it takes away a basic human right from thousands of people to deny them a marriage.

Now, note the last minute or so of the interview where Arlene Foster very awkwardly avoids the question of whether she would attend a gay marriage of one of her kids – I think we can all tell the answer to that from her response.

And so, ladies, gents, others, you see the shit we put up with in NI on a daily basis regarding sexuality vs religion.

For some reason people seem to think I must not either understand or follow a religion because I’m queer – they are continually surprised to find otherwise. And even more so when they discover I know the texts just as well, and often better than they do.

So, while we are on religion (and sorry for the non religious folks, but bear with me here) let’s look at scripture:

James 4:12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

Who indeed.

Hebrews 13:4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

And is this assuming that queers aren’t faithful? Doubt it.

Here’s the thing, there is A LOT of bullshit bigotry surrounding homosexuality, but it basically comes down to this:

Galatians 5:14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

and

Romans 13:9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

What those Christian Fascists like to spout are two passages of the bible – both from Leviticus, which, let’s be honest is a bit of a cunt of a book when it comes to basic human compassion.  But  hey-ho. there’s always Timothy to fall back on – have you shaved? cut your hair? eaten lobster/crab/prawns/clams? Got a tattoo? Have your ears pierced? Damn, desecrated your body. Do you wear mix fabric (all you polyester wearers are fucked) or do you wear expensive fabric? (silk? hahaha, you are fucked too). Is that a wedding ring I see? Is it gold? Silver? Platinum? Well HO.LI.SHIT. congrats, your token of matrimony and conformity has basically condemned to you hell according to the BIBLE  you fucking preach at me every fucking day.

I have a serious issue with people telling telling others they are going to hell ‘because the Bible says so’ while all the time flaunting their own disregard of the ‘rules’ – if you are going to use religion as a reason to oppress then YOU CAN’T FUCKING CHERRY PICK.

And so, here we are. In 2016 where many members of the population are denied basic human rights because one small group of politicians disregarded a population poll on the issue because they fear for the sanctity of marriage (unless of course it’s there own, where spousal abuse and infidelity are just fine).

And so, while I have pride in myself and my loved ones and pride in my countrymen, I don’t have so much pride in our politics.

Wishing I had something more cheerful.

C

 

 

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